Adult Stem Cells from Young Mice Help Old Mice Live Longer and Healthier

By David Prentice

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have shown that adult stem cells from muscle of young mice can improve the health and greatly extend the life of aged mice.

The research team, led by senior investigators Dr. Johnny Huard and Dr. Laura Niedernhofer, tested mice that had been modified to prematurely age—a condition known as progeria—a condition that also occurs in humans.

“As the progeria mice age, they lose muscle mass in their hind limbs, hunch over, tremble, and move slowly and awkwardly,” said Dr. Niedernhofer.

However when the adult stem cells of younger mice were injected into the abdomens of aging mice with progeria, the mice lived two to three times longer than expected and the stem cells from aged mice recovered their ability to grow and differentiate.  Instead of losing muscle mass and moving slowly, the older animals grew as large as normal mice. The Pitt researchers found evidence that the young adult stem cells secrete a growth factor that delays the aging process.

“That tells us that stem cell dysfunction is a cause of the changes we see with aging,” said Dr. Niedernhofer.

Dr. Huard suggested that human muscle-derived stem cells could be stored at an early age and used when people age, allowing some rejuvenation of tissues and slowing the aging process.

The study was published online in Nature Communications at http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v3/n1/full/ncomms1611.html

Editor’s note. This appeared in a different form on Dr. Prentice’s blog at www.frcblog.com/2012/01/adult-stem-cells-from-young-mice-help-old-mice-live-longer-and-healthier/